Now it’s almost 2012 and we will make our triumphant return aboard an EasyJet from Paris via the I hope not prophetically named, El Prat airport. We willing not require the services of a hotel tout as we have arranged an apartment for 10 days. Barcelona will be as different as we are. We will have with us our 14 year old son and a range of apps to help us speak and find our way. We know about bruschetta now. Although we will once again come from France, this time it will be planned. I did try and find my old diary from the mid 80s – a kind of no circulation blog I guess – but it’s whereabouts remains a mystery. I’ll just have to try and remember the places I’ve already been – wouldn’t want to ‘do’ the same places twice in 25 years!
Just over 25 years ago, Pip and I arrived in Barcelona after a particularly gruelling journey that involved an unexpected diversion into the heart of southern France, due the inexplicable splitting of a train and our choice of wrong carriage. I remember finally having to change trains at Port-Bou where the railway gauge changed. We were tired and surrendered to one of those fellows who stand on station platforms touting cheap hotel rooms. We followed him along the street to a Pension named Nuevo Colon and then, wondering why he didn’t disappear after he had delivered us there, realized that a tip was required. I think the tip we proffered was entirely inadequate, but then so was the Pension.
Apart from the artistic wonders of Gaudi and Miro and Dali and Picasso, the thing that sticks in my mind was a pastry called, I hazily recall, Xuxos – a kind of long donutty thing filled with Catalan cream and an excellent accompaniment to coffee. Our Spanish was poor, but not as poor as our Catalan and we stumbled around a summery city bumping into strangely beautiful architecture and monkeys in the pet shops. I also recall being embarrassed by a waiter who snatched bruschetta from us and rubbed the garlic and tomato into the toast to rescue it from the dickhead tourists who were trying to slice it. Obviously well before I became an urban gent – when I wore a younger man’s new romantic, outsized shirt and diagonally fastened jeans (it was 1986!)
We’re heading off on Boxing Day – missing the sales – on China Southern Airways and will have a quick stopover in Paris en route. Ba-ba-ba-Barcelona…